By Peter Jennings.
An onslaught of sleet and snow, combined with a bitterly cold wind caused the cancellation of the annual Chrism Mass procession of priests and deacons from parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham on the Wednesday of Holy Week, 4 April 2012.
In previous years the procession had made its way, delightfully and haphazardly, the short distance from the crypt, outside and along the side and front of the Metropolitan Cathedral of St Chad, Birmingham.
The particularly unseasonal spring weather also caused the cancellation, for the first time in many years, of the procession from Cathedral House by the Metropolitan Chapter, the auxiliary bishops and the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Bernard Longley. This procession escorted by the Papal Knights, had been scheduled to go outside and in through the West Door of this magnificent Pugin gem, situated on the edge of the famous Birmingham Jewellery Quarter.
Spy Wednesday, as it was once known, is the one occasion in the year when all the priests from across the 224 parishes and many varied chaplaincies gather together and are the central figures, filling much of the central part of their magnificent cathedral, with the deacons, religious and lay faithful there just in a supporting role.
Archbishop Bernard Longley presided in the warmth and beauty of St Chad’s. He asked the priests if they were ready to renew the vows they made at their ordination. They responded with a great “I am”. The word of each was the resolution of all. It was a poignant and powerful moment. It always is, from year to year.
In the course of the celebration Archbishop Bernard Longley blessed the oil used for catechumens, for the sick and for those being confirmed.
During his homily the Archbishop said: “Of all the wonderful ceremonies of this Holy Week, when we participate in the sacred drama of the Lord’s passion and resurrection, the Chrism Mass deserves to stand out for its unique focus on the Priesthood of Jesus Christ and on the way that he has chosen to make his priesthood available to the people of our own time and place.”
Archbishop Bernard Longley pictured with his priests during his homily at the Chrism Mass.
Archbishop Longley emphasised that priests and deacons, religious and lay-faithful are all united in the priesthood of Christ. He said: “That is why we must work ever more closely together to further the Church’s mission in our diocese and to face the demands of evangelisation as one body, clergy, religious and lay-faithful seeking a common vision for the future shape of that mission.
“Our common sharing in the priesthood of Christ offers a sure foundation for the fresh collaboration for which I have called in the recent Pastoral Letter (read on the Fifth Sunday of Lent 25 March).”
The Archbishop stressed: “At the heart of this fruitful co-operation is our fidelity as priests to our sacramental sharing in the priesthood of Christ. Being together today we renew the promises of our priestly ordination, but we also remember that this is not the only reason or the most important reason for our coming together in this concelebration. Our first purpose is to be at one, bishop and priests drawn together to bless and consecrate the holy oils.
The Oils are carried in procession to be Blessed by the Archbishop of Birmingham.
The Archbishop of Birmingham pictured during the Blessing of the Oils.
Archbishop Bernard Longley concluded: “The Church calls us together on this one day of the year to exercise the priesthood of Christ in a moment of common witness for the good of the whole diocese as well as for the individual communities we serve.”